GIs, vet resisters take lead in anti-war actions
Published May 24, 2008 7:52 AM
Veterans groups and individual GI resisters and their supporters have taken the
lead in the U.S. anti-war movement. In mid-May there were multiple reports of
war refusals and one mass protest at a major military training base for troops
headed for Iraq and Afghanistan.
Near Fort Drum in upstate New York, the Watertown-based Different Drummer
Café joined with the Iraq Veterans Against the War and peace activists who
had marched from the upstate cities of Rochester, Ithaca and Utica to hold a
festival on May 17, Armed Forces Day.
Drummer organizer Tod Ensign told Workers World that as the official Armed
Forces Day Parade ended outside the Dulles Federal Building, Col. Kenneth
Riddle, Fort Drum’s garrison commander, found himself surrounded by IVAW
members in their black T-shirts.
When asked about the failure of the command to address Iraq veterans’
problems with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), all Col. Riddle could say
was, “I just got here two weeks ago.” Though the vets requested a
meeting, Riddle begged it off.
The festival, scheduled for a campsite and including five popular musical
performances, moved inside to the Different Drummer when rain started. One
observer described the scene: “Veterans and anti-warriors from at least
four U.S. wars mingled happily together. The Drummer was bursting at the seams,
as festival participants spilled on to the mall walkway outside while over 50
danced and celebrated inside.”
An African-American veteran read a poem dedicated to his wife, a soldier who
has been called up for a second tour of duty in Iraq. She was in the audience
holding their 7-month-old son. The couple received a tremendous outpouring of
sympathy, including assurances of legal, moral and practical support, whatever
choice they make.
Ensign noted the atmosphere of mutual understanding between the upstate peace
movement and the soldiers just now beginning to question the war. Another good
point was the marchers’ reception in a traditionally conservative
area—a local American Legion chapter hosted the marchers for dinner and
let them stay in their hall for the night. Plus the marchers got relatively
good publicity in both local upstate press and in the New York Times. (May
Ensign told how Gen. Michael Oates, commander of Fort Drum’s 10th
Mountain Division, had released a conciliatory statement during the week that
he “welcomed” the peace marchers, saw “no problem” with
their demonstrating on base if they didn’t block traffic, and said
active-duty GIs could join in if they didn’t wear uniforms.
Support for resisters
Other signs of the disenchantment with the wars were the growing number of war
One is Army PFC Ryan Jackson, who was formally charged with
multiple counts of being absent without leave, stemming from his attempt to be
released from the Army prior to Iraq deployment. His special court
martial—with a maximum one-year prison sentence—on these charges is
set for May 30 at Fort Gordon, Ga.
“Since I joined up with Courage to Resist and Iraq Veterans Against the
War, my life has changed. I plan to write a book about all of this, and to make
positive change in my community when I get out,” said Jackson before
turning himself in at Fort Sill, Okla., on April 4.
Dianne Mathiowetz, the Atlanta coordinator for the International Action Center,
told WW, “Support for Ryan Jackson is building with activists in the
Augusta area near Fort Gordon. Also, the Georgia Peace and Justice Coalition
and the IAC are mobilizing to attend the vigil the night of May 29 and the
court martial. All members of the military who refuse to participate in this
illegal war of occupation deserve our full support.”
IVAW member Matthis Chiroux announced on May 15 in Washington,
D.C., his refusal to report to active duty. Sgt. Chiroux, who is originally
from Auburn, Ala., has done tours in Germany, Afghanistan and the Philippines
since his June 2002 enlistment.
“As an Army journalist whose job it was to collect and filter service
members’ stories,” Chiroux said, “I heard many
stomach-churning testimonies of the horrors and crimes taking place in Iraq.
For fear of retaliation from the military, I failed to report these crimes, but
never again will I allow fear to silence me. Never again will I fail to
Chiroux announced his courageous decision in the Cannon House Office Building
rotunda, after fellow IVAW members testified before the Congressional
During a court martial May 13 at Rose Barracks in Vilseck, Germany, U.S. Army
conscientious objector Robert Weiss was sentenced to seven
months confinement. Weiss pled guilty to charges of desertion and missing
movement. Weiss had learned in December 2007 that his conscientious objector
application was denied.
Bryan Currie says he joined the Army in November 2004 because
“I thought it would be a good thing to fight for my country.” He
was trained as an Infantry Grenadier and was deployed to Afghanistan in 2006
for 11 months. He describes what he experienced when he got injured:
“We were on a convoy to pick up another soldier. I was the driver. On the
way back my truck got hit by a land mine. ... I got burned, I lost four teeth,
broke my jaw, got shrapnel on my hands, I was jolted forward so my knees are
all swollen and my back’s always sore.” He was treated in
Afghanistan, was out of combat for three weeks and then was sent back to drive
When he returned to the U.S., he saw several military psychiatrists who treated
him for PTSD. “They’d give you a bag of pills and they’d say,
‘Here, try these and if that one doesn’t work try another and if
you find one that does, stick to it.’” Ordered to redeploy despite
his injuries, Currie packed his bags and left. He is currently AWOL and says he
is now “100 percent against the military. I’ve done a complete
For more information on aiding resisters, see couragetoresist.org, ivaw.org
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